*Forgive me. I’m working on Darkship Revenge and don’t want to take my head out of it -SAH*
The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness
I listen to a wide range of music, but I tend to circle around back to country for major events, and the anniversary of 9-11 is one of those. One of the songs on my playlist for the anniversary is “In America” by the Charlie Daniels Band. I happened to notice that the song was originally released in 1980, in response to a lot of the social unrest of the 1970s. Yet, I could swear that the song was written today. The call for American unity is every bit as solid and relevant now as it was then. It set my mind to wandering about how much this perception that Americans have never been so divided is largely the same in every generation, and therefore how much of it is imaginary.
The founding of the country was fraught with bitter divides between schools of thought. There were those who thought that we should appoint a new king, those who thought that we needed a limited government, and those who thought that we should have no government at all. Looking though the published arguments from the time, it’s clear that there was a lot of bad blood. Insults were flung about in our early presidential races that couldn’t be said today in polite company. The Civil War had divides that led to bloodshed and families fighting on different sides of the war. The WW1 generation had very mixed feeling about the war until we were in it, leading to passionate debates and arguments. This has been going on forever here. Americans love to argue loudly about politics, maybe because we can, and we are a passionate people. Such conditions are never good for still waters and smooth sailing.
Even so, as every generation ages, people find shared experiences from their youth and decide that these are the markers of their generation. They comment on the idiocy of the youth. They raise families and complain about the conditions that they are raising a family in. Every generation of children tries to be radically different from their parents here, and every generation of parents finds their children trying beyond measure, and every generation of grandparents finds that the youth of “today” is so much worse than they were in yesteryear. People across the great divide of politics go to church together, attend the same schools, play on the same sports teams, discuss the same books. We’re alike and united in so many ways that it’s almost comical to see how divided we think we are.
The internet certainly makes it louder, by removing the expectations of “polite company” from the public sphere. There’s a false feeling of being invisible. Yet, the people who have these passionate and angry arguments can often sit in the same room together with little to no issues. It’s only the small number of extremes that need to exist in a sort of echo chamber. They drive away other viewpoints, and are almost universally considered horribly rude. As loud as that small number of people are, they aren’t the majority. The majority is going on about having kids and jobs, discussions about issues, bills to pay, and books to read. By and large, America isn’t actually more divided now than it was in the past; it’s just that the extremes now have a super loud megaphone. It’s harder to politely ignore them.
This is actually really great news. I felt much better after having thought it out. We all need to go back to looking at those loud jerks as if they’re kind of crazy and go on about our business. We need to continue to learn, build, and have discussions. At the end of the day, Americans mostly stick together in the face of crisis. We can always go back to fighting with each other tomorrow, when it’s safe to do so again. We’re a nation of adopted family, brother and sisters that loudly wish pain and dismemberment on each other in our internal fights right before we kick in the teeth of the outsider who dared to look askance at our little sister or brother. Perhaps that’s the very best thing about being an American.